THERE IS an increasing personal belief that a poetry selection should at first be read through fairly quickly, and then revisited at a later date at a slower pace. This will help the reader to a deeper understanding of the why and wherefore of the poems and greatly enrich his/her reading experience.
More often than not, despite poems appearing to be randomly placed in most volumes, there tends to be an underlying narrative present which will become manifest only after repeated readings, a narrative that sometimes comes as a complete surprise to the poet. Yes, there are individual poems that will stand out but the full impact of a collection will only be enjoyed when the reader discovers its narrative voice.
Pete Mullineaux’s third collection, How To Bake A Planet (Salmon Poetry ) is an intriguing example of this poetic experience. In the first poem, 'Dancing In The Street', he explores the serendipity of a first meeting that is tentative and unsure, yet somehow full of promise: “This could be the pavement of romance -/random intimacy of bodies/about to make contact like bubbles/on a screen saver, save for the last second/adjustments, incalculable near misses;/and had you been a heartbeat earlier,/me a hesitation later…..”
As the collection progresses, the poet’s confidence seems to grow and about the half way through we find him taking stock in 'The Dance #2': “Another day entirely -/this time ready and prepared/for our performance/having practised steps and scales,/date and time of our rendezvous/carefully orchestrated -/...A brief interlude to recover,/pick up the rhythm,/ re-tune the smiles."
The main landmarks of the journey are paintings and music, beginning with a poem based on the 1879 painting, Jour D’Ete, by Berthe Morisot, and finishing with the 'Bubble Wrap Blues' and seven songs. There are also poems inspired by Military Manoeuvres by Richard Moynan and The Midday Meal by George Collie as well as Electric Picnic and what is perhaps the most stand out poem in the collection, 'First Jazz':
“Coltrane, cool train/ taking vinyl track/with swerve/and verve, hip dip/curve of life, gravity/ bending light/with thumb/and fingertip/on moon/reflecting keys/ take a winding scale from/the black bottom/of a southern swamp/up past a levee camp moan/through a blood red foam/to the cold blue gates of heaven.”
The journey is not without its moments of doubt and the collection is peppered with a series of ecliptic moments reminiscent of Edward Thomas’s "stop at Adlestrop" railway station, TS Eliot’s “moment in and out of time” or Yeats’s Irish Airman’s “in balance with this life, this death.”
All this adds up to an intriguing and enriching collection of poetry, one that is certainly worth several visits.
Pete Mullineaux's How to Bake A Planet will be launched on Saturday November 12 in the Town Hall Theatre bar at 3pm. The guest speaker will be The Irish Times' Lorna Siggins. There will be readings "and at least one song". All are welcome.